Considered by many to be a cornerstone of the community, Village Books on Swarthmore Avenue announced that it would be closing its doors June 30.
Katie O’Laughlin, owner of the bookstore that opened nearly 14 years ago on July 4, 1997, cited poor sales and “recent changes in the book industry” as factors contributing to the closure.
“It was a dramatic drop in sales, even with the economy. We had a 32 percent drop in sales January and it just kept dropping . . . to 40 percent,” O’Laughlin told Patch.
Village Books has “struggled financially for the past 10 years,” according to a letter O’Laughlin wrote to the Palisadian-Post. In an effort to stave off the impending closure, O’Laughlin had recently announced a variety of events including summer camps, writing and blogging classes as well as literary field trips.
However, many of her recent efforts to appeal to consumers transitioning to electronic mediums—including expanding her website, offering online discounts, free shipping and a forthcoming plan to have electronic books available for download—may help Village Books to live on in the digital age.
Even after the store closes, customers will be able to purchase books via its website.
Also, events planned for June will still happen as scheduled, including a book signing by honorary mayor of Pacific Palisades Sugar Ray Leonard on the store’s last day.
Gift certificates and credit slips will be honored throughout the month and people are encouraged to come in and shop till the end. Sales are needed to help pay debtors, O’Laughlin said in her letter to the Post.
O’Laughlin started Village Books soon after the closing of the Crown bookstore. Feeling that the town was lacking a vital service, she decided to act.
Previously working as a lawyer and having graduated with a master's degree in library science, O’Laughlin thought that the Palisades should not be without a bookstore. Recruiting Mia Wigmore and Jeff Didgeway from Crown, she set about creating a new space to house Pacific Palisades’ book lovers.
With no idea what to expect, Village Books opened its doors to the hectic festivities of the town’s July Fourth celebration. Its soft opening was a great success, something O’Laughlin attributes to the mass of people out and about for the festivities and the general lack of a local bookstore for the months preceding the opening.
In the years after, Village Books developed a solid relationship with the community, fulfilling the needs of local schools by stocking required reading material and holding special events for children, and fulfilling the needs of local writers by providing a venue to promote their books.
“There’s personal service, especially in this neighborhood,” O’Laughlin said. “We know people by face. We know what the community is reading. We help out book clubs, local authors and the schools. [Village Books] is a friendly, comfortable place.”
Past events include celebrity appearances by people such as Tom Hanks, who spoke with the store's customers as they bought books and movies related to his work, and Giada De Laurentiis of Food Network fame, who has signed her books there.
Each time a Harry Potter book came out, the store stayed open for midnight release parties. Village Books has also had Hogwarts Express floats in the town's July Fourth parade. On June 16 every year, Bloomsday, a holiday that pays homage to author James Joyce, is celebrated. Irish musicians and actors read selections from Joyce’s work.
Every second Monday of the month, Village Books holds Monday Poetry, an open mic event for poetry writers and enthusiasts in the area.
Despite all of the events and community support given, Village Books now finds itself closing its doors.
“We’ve enjoyed the support of the community all these years and I know that they want us and we hope to stay here. But we are struggling with economic reality,” O’Laughlin said.
One ending may be the beginning of a new chapter in the story of a community treasure. Look for familiar faces from Village Books right here on Patch in the future.
To share memories of Village Books, visit the store to write in its memory book, visit Facebook to write on its wall, or visit its website at www.palivillagebooks.com, where more information and upcoming events can be found.